You might be reading this and realize Mother’s Day is Sunday and you still don’t know what to get her. instead of a flowery candle or new pair of shoes (that might just end up stashed in her closet) here is a better idea: offer the gift of service and some quality time together.
Here are five easy organizing projects you can tackle with your mom to help make her life calmer and more peaceful.
Organize Her Books
Whether your mom is a devoted bibliophile or more of a once-a-year reader, she probably has at least a small collection of treasured, borrowed, or unread books cluttering her office or bedroom. This applies to magazines as well.
Help her go through her pile of books or magazines one by one to determine which ones she cherishes and wants to hold onto, and which ones she’d feel comfortable donating or giving to a friend.
As you go through the collection, you can chat about your favorite authors or magazines, share the stories of how certain books came into your lives, explain which ones impacted you most deeply, and give one another recommendations.
Sonya Joseph, the professional organizing expert behind Solutions by Sonya, recommends offering to help your mom sort through all the dusty boxes of photos she keeps in her cabinet. Organize them into piles by category or year so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
Scan all the photos you don’t already have saved onto your iCloud or photo library (like the ones from her childhood), then save them onto a CD, flash drive, or hard drive. Having digital copies of your mom’s dearest memories means she won’t ever lose them, even if the physical copy gets tarnished or lost.
You can make glossy photo books from your scanned photos, or put the actual pictures in an album she can keep on her coffee table to show guests or leaf through when she feels nostalgic.
“This is also such a gift to the giver. Getting a chance to take notes on the backs of photos so that you can pass on this information to future generations will be such a benefit to the whole family,” Joseph said.
Sort Through Clothes
Sifting through decades of accumulated clothes, handbags, and shoes is a very personal—often emotional—process, one your mom needs to feel ready and excited to take on. Instead of dictating the pace or weighing in on the merit of your mom’s blue velvet dress from the 90s, offer her your emotional support.
Be an encouraging yet neutral sounding board if she asks for your opinion. Beyond that, offer to take care of the logistics once she’s done sorting through her clothes. If she has bags of clothes to donate or recycle, offer to drive them to your local Goodwill or schedule a donation pick-up. If she has beloved dresses or coats that need mending, take them to the tailor on her behalf.
File Papers and Letters
Create an efficient, easy system to file your mom’s important documents and papers so she can locate them in a cinch if she needs to.
Maybe she has drawers of precious letters she’s saved throughout the years, clusters of crumpled receipts with decades-old dates, or piles of tax returns and bills she’s not sure what to do with. Help her sort her documents into piles by category and priority, making sure to recycle any irrelevant or unnecessary papers along the way.
Once you have everything sorted into piles, figure out where she’s going to store her important papers. Is the bedroom better? The home office? A library? Once you can clearly see the volume of paper she has, as well as the space she’ll be storing it in, you can figure out what kind of materials you’ll need. Go shopping together for pretty file folders, boxes, notebooks, and label tags, then sort and file accordingly.
Organize Her Kitchen
If your mother isn’t someone who regularly tosses and organizes the items in her kitchen, offering to help streamline her collection of kitchenware and pantry items can make a world of difference in her daily routine.
Sort by category to speed up the process—go through all the serving platters at once then all the silverware at once, for example. Throw out or recycle any items in less than stellar condition, and donate any items that are in good condition but don’t appeal to her taste or complement her kitchen’s aesthetic.
For those mothers who inevitably buy more food than they can cook, Eliece Jenkins, author of Organized Mom, recommends helping your mom organize her food supply. Jenkins advises sorting and counting everything in her cabinets, pantry, and refrigerator, making sure to throw out expired or moldy food along the way.
“When we were done, I typed everything up so she had a list she could refer to. That kept her from buying things that she already had,” Jenkins said.